Thy Will Be Done
Jake figured it would be a cinch. In fact, he could hardly wait to get started. He would bus a dozen of his loyal congregation to the inner city to give witness to the poor and downtrodden who needed Jesus in their lives.
True too, was the fact that Jake needed a real "kick-ass" project with which to impress the board of trustees when he began negotiating his new contract next month. Other churches sponsored missionary projects to Africa and South America. But his project, "Urban Witness," would be a grass-roots local effort. Well--for all intents and purposes, local. The inner city lay like a rotten, festering carcass just twenty-five miles north of the well-trimmed, respectable suburb of Oak Glenn, home of the God-fearing congregation of the Valley Road Church of Christ.
The Reverend Jake McElroy had done quite well for himself. Since his arrival at Valley Road, he had increased attendance ten-fold, to nearly six hundred families. The coffers were increasing steadily and the building fund was at record levels. The church now held three services every Sunday. And, it had installed a sound system that was the envy of all other churches. In fact, Valley Road's audio could "blow the doors off" the one that the Holy Evangelicals bought the year before last.
"Yes, sir," smiled Jack to himself, "the Lord has certainly been good to this humble servant and his flock."
As he swung the church van on to the interstate, Jake had a hard time focusing on the road and on the upcoming mission, seeing as how Linda Johnson was sitting to his right. Linda was an attractive, God-fearing Christian woman with two adorable children, and a loser for a husband. Jesus, she was built! Jake would love to give her some hands-on "spiritual counseling." He'd have to be patient, and wait for just the right possible moment. Perhaps a family crisis might occur. Perhaps Sam would lose his job. Or run off with some floozy. One could hope.
Jake prayed with each witness before dropping them off in pairs onto the various city neighborhoods, armed with materials and holy inspiration. Jake had saved the most challenging neighborhood for himself--Brighton Street--a hangout for junkies and prostitutes. Brighton was a microcosm of society's illnesses infesting three by five city blocks. Jake would get some great material for his Sunday service on that street. Who knows? Perhaps he might actually turn one of those poor devils away from a life of debauchery and misery and point them in the direction of a church. Not his church, mind you. No, he'd pass them on to that broken-down Baptist Church over on First and Commercial. Lord knows they could use some business.
Jake parked the church van a few blocks away in a safe garage and proceeded on foot to Brighton Street. As he rounded the corner, Jake spied some potential targets. Ahead were six or seven poorly dressed hookers in scantily clad outfits. Jake couldn't help but notice their outrageously short skirts with fishnet stockings, and an overabundance of makeup and lipstick. Jake would not have even glanced at these women under normal circumstances. As he approached, they grew even less attractive. Geez, they're butt-ugly, he thought. No matter, Jake was on a mission from God.
"Five-oh," remarked one of the gals to the other prostitutes. One by one, they glanced over towards Jake as he approached. The ladies began departing for other street corners. Jake approached one of the women, momentarily blocking her path. But before he could speak to her, Jake made a startling discovery: this one was a man! Jake stepped aside and let her/him pass by. Jake was quite sure now that all of the hookers here were transvestites. Jesus! Jake would have his work cut out for him today.
One of the "women" stayed behind, eyeing Jake as he approached. Jake noticed that he was a tall, slim young black man with a large blond wig and fake boobs. The man's bright red lips parted, revealing a not-unfriendly smile. Jake could see now that he was not just slim--he was in fact emaciated. Jake glanced down at the fresh needle marks tracking both arms. Jake mentally ticked off the "black marks" against this poor soul: drinker, smoker, transvestite, prostitute, and an IV drug user. And he's probably HIV-positive. How can people live like this?
"Mornin', Sugar," said the young black man. He did a small curtsey in front of Jake. "Now, I know yo' not the fuzz. And I bet yesterday's pay that you ain't come here to my 'hood for a blow job. Uh-uh. A respectable suburban-type like yo' se'f. No, sir! So, what kin' Missey do for you?"
For a moment, Jake actually forgot what he was going to say. He regained his composure and climbed back on "the stump." In his confident, ministerial voice, Jake proclaimed, "Friend, this is your lucky day. In fact, this may be the most important day of your life! I'm here to tell you, 'It's not too late.' Jesus died for your sins. He died for my sins. You can be saved!"
Missey smiled at Jake. She smiled an all-knowing smile, a confident smile--a disturbing smile.
Jake didn't know what to say.
"No shit, huh?" Missey exclaimed. "Well, you came to the right place. Cuz dis' here be the most important day of yo' life, Precious Buttercup."
Jake nearly fainted. He hadn't been called "Precious Buttercup" for over 30 years. His grandmother was the only person who ever called Jake by this name after his mom had died. How in God's name did this junkie-whore know his childhood nickname?
"Bet yo' didn't expect that one, huh Butters? I know everything there is ta know 'bout you. And, inciden'ly, don't worry 'bout tryin' to save mah black ass. I done heard it a zillion times before. I invented redemption. In case you haven't figgered it out yet, I'm your God--with a capital 'Gee'."
Jake was trying to think, but his mind was confused and knotted with fear, revulsion and anger. Clearly, this "person" was delusional--quite possibly, even dangerous. He had better just humor "Missey" or "God" or whoever he or she thought him/herself to be. Jake hadn't bargained for this.
"Not what you expected, huh? Well, Butters, you better run and take yo' white ass out of here 'fore som' Real Five-Oh from the First Precinct gets the wrong idea 'bout Preacher Jake."
"H-h-how did you know my name?" Jake stammered.
"I knows it all, baby. I knows it all. Hey! You expected an old, white man in a long robe and flowin' beard? Come on! Get real! I's got to I-DEN-TI-FY with my creations, don't ya see? I ain't goin' round burnin' no bushes. No-sir-ree. Der's laws against settin' fires in d'is here town."
Jake was speechless. He found himself going numb, and nodded his head in agreement with "God." Of course the creator would not appear before the human race, ala Old Testament style. Missey's remarks made a certain amount of sense. Jake no longer focused on the appearance of this pitiful, young man standing in front of him, or even questioning how he knew all about Jake's life. Instead, Jake found himself accepting the fact that He did know.
"...I kin' tell ya' what you ate on the fifth day of class in the third grade. I kin' tell ya' what sweet nothings Adolf Hitler whispered in his Jewish mistress's ear at eight o'clock on the morning of November 19, 1943 A.D. I could tell ya' 'bout dinosaurs, 'bout people on other planets. I could tell ya' a whole lotta shit that you wouldn't be able to handle. It'd curl yo' hair. Hell, yo' head would prob'ly explode."
"Now, you take yo' self and yo' 'witnesses' today," God continued. "Some of 'ems got the very best of intentions. Others--why, they be milkin' it jes' like you. By the way, I knows 'bout that sweet, young thing you boinked in your office last month. What would her hubby do if he knew? He's a big guy, ain't he? Oh, and I wouldn't be thinkin' of gettin' any nooky off'n the Missus Johnson. She got cancer. I'm recallin' that 'un."
Before Jake could offer any protest, God added, "I bet yo' proud of not gettin' caught helpin' yo' self to that buildin' fund donation two years back. Nobody's the wiser, huh? Wrong! Da 'Shadow' knows! Das me. Da 'Shadow' always know."
It was true. Jake could hardly acknowledge the transgression, even to himself. Jake had taken advantage of a sizeable, anonymous donation that theValley Road Christian Church received during a three-month period in which the church's accountant had quit, before a new accountant had been found. Jake had secretly transferred nearly $20,000 to an offshore account in the Grand Cayman Islands.
Jake felt totally exposed for the thief and adulterer that he was.
God continued, "You'z got to set things right with the All Mighty Creator. Dat be me, of course. An dat's why you be here. You ain't savin' nobody today. 'CEPT-YO'-SEF."
Jesus! This can't be happening, thought Jake. It's only a bad dream. I'm actually asleep in my nice, comfortable, warm bed in Oak Valley. Perhaps this is the result of a bad case of indigestion, like Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." Jake slowly backed away, not taking his eyes off of Missey for one second.
"Well, well. I see we still have our doubts, old boy."
Jake noticed that Missey was now using flawless grammar, and pronouncing his words in the King's English. Then, right before his eyes, Jake saw Missey's image--or what he thought was Missey--suddenly transform into that of an elderly gentleman in a blue, fashionably tailored suit clutching a walking cane. Before he could grasp this miracle, Jake was now face-to-face with a woman with long, red hair, dressed in tennis attire. An instant later, God transformed Himself into a tall, alien creature with pale, orange skin, possessing multiple orifices where a person's mouth might be. Seconds later, God reappeared in the image of the late actor and comedian, George Burns, dressed in casual slacks and sneakers. God had a sense of humor, it seemed.
"That's as close to a burning bush as you're gonna get today, Butter Cup," said Burns, with a giggle. He flicked the ash from his cigar onto the ground.
This was no bad dream. Jake fell to his knees in front of God, prostrate, begging, "Lord, I beseech thee! Forgive me, for I am a worthless sinner. Help me find my way back to You so that I might join You and Your Angels in the Kingdom of Heaven. Glory be unto You, Heavenly Father!"
Jake prayed desperately. Jake prayed like an atheist facing imminent death and an eternity of damnation in hell. Jake prayed for what felt like hours. When he finished his final "Amen" Jake looked up, but God was nowhere in sight. But Jake had received his answer. He knew what he had to do.
Jake was very quiet on the ride home that evening, according to church members who were later interviewed by the police. They reported that the Reverend dropped everyone off at their homes, and thanked them for their service to the Lord that day. The Reverend wished each person a happy evening. No, they reported, Reverend McElroy gave no indication that anything was amiss. The Reverend did not discuss any disturbing encounters with the folks in the city. In fact, the Reverend seemed to have an inner peace and solitude about him.
Later that evening, Jake McElroy began penning a lengthy tome "To God's Children" that detailed his worldly sins. In his letter, the Reverend begged his congregation for their understanding and forgiveness. He also wrote, "I am at peace with myself and my God," noting that his acts of that evening were "God's clear and unambiguous will." Curiously, the Reverend also wrote, "God has a hell of sense of humor. But he has very poor taste in dresses."
Shortly before midnight, the Reverend Jake McElroy placed a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. His final thoughts before leaving this earth were the words found in the Book of Luke, Chapter 23, verses 39-43:
The criminal, who was crucified next to Jesus, said to Him, "Remember
me when you come into your kingdom." And Jesus spoke to the criminal,
saying, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise."
Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and works as a computer systems administrator at a university. He's had over a hundred works of short fiction published in print and online journals. Blue Mustang Press recently published Phil's full-length murder-mystery novel, The Winship Affair. He has two books due out this year--a paranormal-horror novel, Helltown Chronicles by Eternal Press, and a short story anthology in Big Table Publishing: Machine Feelings.